Iraq launches new Social Protection Programme

The Government of Iraq, UNICEF, WFP and ILO partner to reform social protection with support from the European Union

A new Social Protection Programme has been launched by the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Trade of Iraq, along with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and the International Labour Organization (ILO), to reform the social protection system and the effectiveness of its response to ongoing socio-economic shocks.

The European Union (EU) has contributed 30 million euro towards the new four-year Social Protection Programme, which aims to build a sustainable and more inclusive system for those in need.

The Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and Ministry of Trade, lead work on the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the COVID-19 Response Plan as well as reforms at the programme implementation level, focusing on Social Safety Nets, the Public Distribution System for food rations (PDS) and Social Security.

To support these efforts, UNICEF, ILO and WFP worked closely with the three Ministries to develop a Joint Programme to accelerate social protection reform. Under this programme, first and largest of its kind in Iraq, UNICEF, ILO, and WFP will support the Ministries over 2021-2025 to build Iraq's strategy for social protection and implement a reform roadmap, roll-out and scale up child-focused and employment-related social protection schemes, and build up a unified national registry underpinned by the PDS.

The Social Protection Programme also aims to develop a national strategy and roadmap to expand social security coverage to include informal workers, while supporting the most vulnerable workers in the informal economy and alleviating the effects of COVID-19. The programme hopes to achieve comprehensive, efficient, and effective social protection coverage of vulnerable groups and to offer pathways for vulnerable people for human development, economic inclusion, and enhanced resilience by 2025.

The most vulnerable groups prioritized include children, youth, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, displaced persons and workers in the informal sector. Cash transfer programmes for children and pregnant women are also being developed, with linkages to key services. Underpinning all initiatives is the digitalisation of the PDS, which is enabling better citizen data systems and the establishment of a single registry for eligible people.

"We are grateful for the support from the EU, UNICEF, WFP and ILO. Our Ministries are committed to these reforms, and we will work together to improve the lives of the most vulnerable Iraqis under this programme," said the representatives of the three Ministries Mr. Maher Johan, Ms. Abeer AlChalabi and Mr. Waleed Al-Mosawi, in a joint statement.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant loss of jobs and income, making it even more difficult for vulnerable families to afford basic needs such as food and to access health care, education and vital public services, leading to further risks of exclusion. Reforming social protection helps address poverty and vulnerability, as well as support people during shocks, from childhood to old age," said UNICEF Iraq Representative Sheema Sen Gupta, WFP Iraq Representative Ally-Raza Qureshi, ILO Country Coordinator in Iraq Maha Kattaa, and EU Ambassador to Iraq Ville Varjola, in a joint statement.

The three UN agencies will support the Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and Ministry of Trade in evidence generation including assessment and mapping of social protection, public expenditure review of government spending on social protection, and analysis of multidimensional poverty, food insecurity, the labour force, and household access to social protection.

The Social Protection Programme therefore creates the base to build an evidence-based approach to reforming social protection, that is supported by policies, enhanced institutional capacities, and effective coordination. Such reforms are especially vital in the context of the pandemic.

(Source: UN)

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